Category Archives: Bill

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsIn this baseball comedy, Guffy McGovern (Paul Douglas), the manager of a very awful Pittsburgh Pirates team, is foul mouthed, hated by his players, ridiculed by the fans, and regularly badmouthed by the Pirates radio announcer (Keenan Wynn). Newspaper reporter Jennifer Paige (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the Pirates and give a woman’s perspective on the team. When she initially tries to interview McGovern, he gives her a very impolite brushoff.

A short time later, an angel contacts McGovern, and tells him that someone has been praying for him and the Pirates. If McGovern can control his temper, the angel and some of his friends will help the Pirates win a few games. McGovern agrees and suddenly this heretofore awful Pirates team are playing great baseball.

Bridget White (Donna Corcoran), an orphan who is hoping to be adopted, has been praying for the Pirates. One day, the girls at the orphanage are brought to the ballpark by two nuns (played by longtime character actors Spring Byington and Ellen Corby). During the game, Bridget witnesses the angels helping the Pirates. Nobody else can see the angels. Paige writes a story about Bridget, which causes a lot of complications for all involved. But it also leads to lot of good things including an unlikely romance between McGovern and Paige.

Angels in the Outfield has a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, plus a few cameo appearances by Bing Crosby, baseball greats Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, and famous songwriter Harry Ruby. It also has some stock footage showing old Comiskey Park.

This is my favorite baseball movie and I hope you enjoy it too. You can also peruse our list of other baseball films.

The Black Book (1949)

blackbookAlso titled Reign of Terror, The Black Book is a suspense film that is as film noir as you can possibly get.  Yet instead of being set in a large American city during the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, it is set in 1794 Paris during the reign of terror. Charles D’Aubigny (Robert Cummings), is a French patriot looking to overthrow Maximilian Robespierre (Richard Basehart).

Robespierre is planning to become dictator of France, so that he can more easily continue his reign of terror wherein he sends anyone opposed to him to the guillotine without trial or hearing. One of D’Aubigny’s coconspirators is Madelon (Arlene Dahl). D’Aubigny and Madelon have a past and D’Aubigny is bitter about it; neither is sure they can trust the other.

In fact, almost none of the characters in this film trust each other and with good reason.  And the man most in the middle the man who no one should trust and who trusts no one is Fouche (Arnold Moss), the chief of police. He would like to destroy Robespierre but he will happily kill a friend or foe of Robespierre if it will advance his career. Moss does a great job with this character.

I will borrow a sentence from a review on IMDB to describe this film: “The atmosphere is particularly effective, with the dark photography and claustrophobic settings helping to establish the rampant fear, uncertainty, and paranoia that characterized the era.”

This film is nonstop suspense.  About the only criticism I could make is this is a film badly in need of restoration. The current DVD was supposedly restored but it’s far from what I usually experience in a restored film; I have seen worse copies of this film so it is an improvement, but even in its not-so-restored state, it is wonderful film.

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerThis film is a lot of fun and can be thoroughly enjoyed with the right perspective. Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger give fine performances. In fact, The Lone Ranger has become one of my favorite Johnny Depp movies. There is a lot of humor in this film especially between Depp and Hammer. There are two main villains in this film, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and the other I won’t say because that would be giving too much away. And the two villains are thoroughly despicable.

The film was nominated for two Oscars including Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And that nomination is well deserved. While some of the action scenes are impossible, just sit back and enjoy them as they are spectacular. The Lone Ranger is a western and an adventure film, but it is also a fantasy film.

When I saw this film, I was prepared to be disappointed as I was a Lone Ranger fan when it was on television in the 1950s, and I have been very disappointed in many movies based on television shows. And a lot of the reviews were very critical. But unless you are a Lone Ranger purist and you do one simple thing, you will probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of this film. One of the criticisms of this film is that it is too long. When I saw it the first time, I took a break to have dinner after about an hour and ten minutes into the movie. When movies were very long in the 1950s and early 1960s, movie makers had the good sense to interrupt the film with an intermission. The film probably would have done a lot better at the box office if the producers had installed an intermission. But you as a viewer watching it on DVD, you can impose your own intermission.

Also Lone Ranger fans, the film includes the William Tell Overture but you have to wait for it.

One more word of warning: this film could be pretty intense for younger viewers. That said, the rest of you should saddle up as this movie is a great ride.

The Dead Zone (1983) R

This 1983 film is described as a horror film and in some ways it is, but it is very difficult to slap a label on this film. To be truthful, many hardcore horror film fans probably wouldn’t like it. If asked, I could not give a one or two word description of this film. The Dead Zone is sort of a time travel movie, it’s a love story, and a tragedy, but it also a story of redemption and a story of hope.

Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a young teacher very much in love with fellow teacher Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams), who is very much in love with Johnny. While coming home from a date, Johnny gets into a horrific car accident. He goes into a coma and when he awakes, he finds he has lost five years. He is physically disabled in that he has very limited walking abilities, and he finds that Sarah has married and has a son. As crushing to his spirit as this is, he soon finds that he has undergone another dramatic change. He finds that when he holds a person’s hand, he can see a part of either that person’s past or their future.

Walken gives a great performance. There is a haunting melody that plays off and on through the movie and for its time, there are some great special effects. The film is an adaption of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone. Many people have described this movie as the best adaption of a King novel and I agree. If you have never seen the film or read the book, I suggest you do both.

Jack Reacher (2012) PG-13

Based on Lee Child’s book One Shot, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) travels across the USA and always runs into some very dangerous people who have killed innocent people and are planning to do more until Reacher stops them. In the movie as well as the book, James Barr is accused of killing five random people and the evidence against him will likely produce a guilty verdict. The suspect doesn’t want an attorney, he won’t confess even though the police and the DA have advised him that if he elects to be tried, the DA will do his best to get him executed. The suspect wants only one thing: to see Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher has plenty of action, but it will give the viewer plenty to think about as well. Rosamund Pike gives a fine performance as Barr’s defense attorney Helen, as does Werner Herzog who plays the chief villain. Robert Duvall stars as Cash, and he gives a fine performance as well.

I have already seen this movie three times and I don’t usually see newer films this many times within such a short period (the last 7 months). I recommend it.

 

Man of Steel (2013) PG-13

This 2013 retelling of the origin of Superman is superb. Man of Steel stars Henry Cavill as Superman and Clark Kent, and he is outstanding. Amy Adams gives a fine performance as Lois Lane.

If you are looking for action, there is plenty of it. And the special effects should get at least an Oscar nomination if not a win.

The chief villain is General Zod (Michael Shannon), and he is a great nemesis. The battles between General Zod and Superman are titanic. Kal-El’s father Jor-El is played by Russell Crowe, and he gives a very solid performance. For those of you who’ve forgotten, Kal-El is Superman’s Kryptonian name.

The movie, although a little dark at times, is a lot of fun.

Have Gun Will Travel. Seasons 1-6 (1957-1963)

Have Gun Will TravelThis TV western ran six seasons from 1957 to 1963 and starred Richard Boone as Paladin and Kam Tong as Hey Boy. During its six year run, it was ranked 3 or 4 during its first four seasons. It was during the time that westerns were occupying more than half of the spots in the top ten and top twenty ratings.

But Have Gun Will Travel was different from other westerns. Paladin was a hired gun with an education. He was a sophisticated man who knew his Shakespeare, loved poetry, opera, classical music, art, the theater, history, spoke several languages, seemed to know about all cultures, was well traveled, knew chemistry and physics indeed an Everyman or Renaissance Man.

Although he charged huge sums for his services, he occasionally charged little or even donated his services for a worthy cause. When not working he lived in a posh hotel in San Francisco where he dated beautiful women, drank the finest wines, liquors, and whiskeys and hence he need to charge large fees for his services.

When he was working, he dressed all in black. Although his gun was for hire, he refused jobs that required him to commit murder. He was an expert with his gun, with a rifle, knife or sword, and his fists as well.

He treated people of different cultures, races, or religions with respect and admiration. Although Hey Boy’s name is dismissive and his job as bellboy is humble, Paladin always treats him with the greatest of respect.Have Gun Will Travel

Many of the guest stars who appeared on the show went on to big screen careers: Charles Bronson, Warren Oates, James Coburn, and Lee Van Cleef to name a few. Other more established actors such as Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, Jeanette Nolan, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price, and John Carradine also appeared on the show. The show featured many actors who would have leading roles and/or major supporting roles in major television shows: Denver Pyle, Ken Curtis, June Lockhart, Harry Morgan, Angie Dickinson, and Jack Lord. Finally, the show featured dozens of character actors who had lengthy careers in film and television: Robert Wilke, Hank Patterson, Strother Martin, Leo Gordon, Jack Elam, Anthony Caruso, Ralph Moody, Royal Dano, Dabbs Greer, Joanne Linville, Bob Steele, Claude Akins, John Dehner, Elinor Donahue, and dozens of others.

The episodes are wonderfully written and are unique and yet some episodes are transposed from classic works of literature. Some of the episodes were written by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame.

Even the closing theme the Ballad of Paladin is wonderful and was appropriately written by a man named Johnny Western.

The Man with a Cloak (1951)

An idealistic young French girl Madeline Minot (Leslie Caron) travels to New York City in 1848 to obtain financial assistance from her fiancée’s wealthy grandfather (Louis Calhern) to further the cause of the French Republic. When she arrives, she finds that the old man is destroying himself with drink and being assisted in his demise by the old man’s sinister paramour (Barbara Stanwyck), his butler (Joe De Santis), and his very cynical maid (Margaret Wycherly). The wicked trio plan to inherit the old man’s money.

Madeline Minot meets Dupin (Joseph Cotton), the mysterious man with a cloak who, feeling sorry for the young girl, offers his assistance.

I like this film for the fine performances, the witty dialogue, the almost noirish feel of the film, the mystery aspects, and the setting in 1848 New York. I have no hard data but I suspect that 95% or more of films about 19th century America are westerns, Civil War films or a combination of the two. Even though I am especially fond of westerns, it is a real pleasure to see a film set in the East.

Students of American literature will appreciate this film as well.

I saw The Man with a Cloak for the first time a few years ago and I have seen it three more times since.  It has become one of my favorites and perhaps it will be yours as well.

From Time to Time (2009) PG

From Time to Time promo movie poster AFM 2009This fantasy film starring Maggie Smith is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy named Tolly staying with his grandmother in the country in 1940s England. Grandmother lives in a very old house built during the time of the Normans. While living there, young Tolly travels back to the time of Napoleon and meets some distant ancestors.

This film was adapted from the second of the Green Knowe books by Lucy M. Boston, The Chimneys of Green Knowe (released in the US as Treasure of Green Knowe). From what I have read, most people are enchanted by the movie with the exception of those who have read the book before seeing the film.  Since I had not read the books, I too loved the film, but I have to agree that the film could have been much better if it had stuck closer to the book.

Nevertheless I still recommend seeing From Time to Time. Although the books were written for children, if you like things British, you will thoroughly enjoy them.

The Killing (1956)

Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook, Marie Windsor, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, and Joe Sawyer star in this crime drama. The Killing is one of the best “heist films” you’ll ever see. Hayden is an ex-con who has masterminded a huge robbery. The film keeps you tense and thinking at all times as you are given small pieces of information throughout the film, but not enough to figure out how the robbery will be committed and whether it will succeed or not.

Hayden gives a fine performance as does Cook as a wimpy clerk and so does  Windsor as Cook’s shrewish wife.

This film reminds me of Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and its remake (2001). Both of those films had super-deluxe casts and are excellent films, but this one is better and it seems a lot more believable.